Marketing in the Age of the Empowered Consumer

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Thanksgiving has always fascinated me. It’s the one day a year that every American family is eating basically the same meal (with a few variations, of course) and watching football and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. The entire country stops and collectively does the same thing.

Now we can add one more national activity to Thanksgiving Day: shopping. Who would have thought that Americans would actually want to shop on a national holiday? Actually, my team and I don’t just think that people want to shop: we know it. We use IBM digital analytics to track—in real time—what’s happening in online retail across the U.S. every day of the year. We know that this year, for example, online retailers will bring in record Thanksgiving Day sales.

Americans want to shop on Thanksgiving, but the way they shop has changed dramatically. If you’ve heard me speak at the IBM Marketing Innovations Summit, you’ll know that I’ve long said that the traditional, funnel-based approach to marketing is broken. Consumers are smarter and more sophisticated about the many ways they can use technology to redefine the shopping experience on their terms. Want to save a buck? Look for promo codes online (you might also be able to redeem them in store).  Worried about in-store inventory levels for that game your son absolutely has to have? Hop online to see if your local store has it in stock or skip the worry altogether and just buy it online.

The point is that consumers today have a technology arsenal that they can use to research online and then channel hop at will. That’s a game changer. It places tremendous pressure on businesses to offer a consistent, engaging, brand-relevant multi-channel experience.  At the same time, it turns the concept of brand loyalty on its head. People are now only as loyal as their last experience was satisfying. I call this “experiential loyalty,” and it forces businesses to center themselves on their customers and what these customers consider important. What you think is important doesn’t matter: act on what your customers tell you is important.

I don’t mean to underplay how difficult it can be to consistently deliver marketing so relevant that your customers consider it a service. Marketing in the age of the empowered consumer can be challenging.  As my colleague, Annalivia Ford, has so eloquently said, no one wants to be the guy who annoys a customer into abandoning a brand they used to love.

IBM is on a mission to fix marketing for the benefit of the consumer. We call our approach Smarter Commerce and we believe this market represents a $70 billion opportunity. My former Unica team has been combined with Coremetrics to deliver the broadest range of enterprise marketing management solutions available anywhere.

We’re up to the challenge of redefining marketing. Are you?

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